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Brilliant Rohit powers Mumbai to second spot

Wisden India logo Wisden India 01-05-2016

Rising Pune Supergiants were handed the sort of manic start any Twenty20 side would crave in their clash against Mumbai Indians on Sunday (May 1), but the fact that their innings petered out in disappointment only added a new chapter to the sorry story of their Indian Premier League 2016 season. It meant the Maharashtra derby – the final match of the tournament in the state this year – went Mumbai’s way, the visitors barely breaking sweat in their eight-wicket win at the MCA Stadium in Pune.

Steven Smith was a boundary-machine, hammering a 23-ball 45 that lifted Saurabh Tiwary out of slumber, if only briefly. Tiwary should have done better than his 45-ball 57, but during the course of their 84-run second-wicket partnership, Pune looked well on course to put up a total close to the 200-mark. They eventually only managed 159 for 5 though, and Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s disappointment was evident when Rohit Sharma led Mumbai from the front with his fifth half-century, putting on sizeable stands with Ambati Rayudu and Jos Buttler to take his side to 161 for 2 in 18.3 overs.

Mumbai’s third consecutive victory pushed them to second on the table, behind Gujarat Lions.

Curiously, apart from Smith, it was an uncharacteristic display from most of the Pune batsmen after they were put in by Rohit. Ajinkya Rahane, usually careful and steady, holed out after carelessly throwing his bat at a wide delivery from Mitchell McClenaghan. But that gave way to the Smith show. He had luck on his side – his first two boundaries came off inside-edges against Tim Southee – and to his credit, he capitalised. The finest of his shots was an uppercut off McClenghan, with his feet almost off the ground, and that ended up well over the third-man fence.

Watching Smith, perhaps something clicked in Tiwary. Dropped by Jasprit Bumrah when on five, Tiwary made him pay with a couple of clubs straight down the ground. Krunal Pandya wasn’t spared either in the next over, twice swept and pulled for six. Pune were coasting, and their injury troubles – Mitchell Marsh the latest in the sick bay – were temporarily forgotten.

Smith was all set for a half-century, but his dismissal sparked an abrupt change. Bumrah, who had a poor time in the field on the whole, induced an edge off the Australian to end the threatening partnership, and the effects of that dismissal were far-reaching. The run-rate, which was 11.20 during their stand, never reached those highs again. Peter Handscomb, on his IPL debut, laboured to a 12-ball 6 and the 33-run association between Tiwary and Dhoni came at 6.18 per over – hardly the sort of figures required at the death.

Tiwary brought up his half-century in 39 balls, but he was visibly tiring with each ball faced. His dismissal, off Bumrah, was a result of fatigue, which made it a struggle for him to clear the ropes. Dhoni himself struggled – uncharacteristically again – to find the fence, holing out for a run-a-ball 24. Thisara Perara’s 9-ball 12 wasn’t without jitters.

Rohit had no such problems. After taking an over to get the measure of things, he hammered Perera for 16 runs in the next – it was the beginning of his love-affair with the leg-side. Parthiv Patel fell after three consecutive fours off Ashok Dinda in the next over, but Mumbai had the start they needed. Thereafter, it was routine business, especially with Pune’s bowlers struggling for consistency. Rohit continued putting away the boundaries, ably supported by Rayudu, and their stand crossed 50 when Rohit swept R Ashwin’s carrom ball to the fence.

Rayudu holed out soon after but Mumbai were unperturbed. Rohit brought up his half-century off 38 balls and, with Buttler now for company, the cheeky scoops were on display as well. There was a boundary every over, meaning Pune’s ordeal didn’t last long.

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